The beheaded statue at Miami Beach's Ancient Spanish Monastery (screenshot by the author via Twitter)

The beheaded statue at Miami Beach’s Ancient Spanish Monastery (screenshot by the author via Twitter)

Crimes of the Art is a weekly survey of artless criminals’ cultural misdeeds. Crimes are rated on a highly subjective scale from one “Scream” emoji — the equivalent of a vandal tagging the exterior of a local history museum in a remote part of the US — to five “Scream” emojis — the equivalent of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist.

Florida Man Beheads 13th-Century Statue


Thirty-three-year-old Jorge Arizamendoza was arrested at Miami Beach’s Ancient Spanish Monastery — the aptly named site, a 12th-century building, was shipped to Florida in 1925 by William Randolph Hearst — after threatening to kill the priest and those attending a prayer service for the victims of the Orlando massacre. A few days earlier, he had visited the site and knocked the head off an 800-year-old statue of Alphonsus VII of Castille.

Verdict: Just because Arizamendoza lost his head, he had no right to take it out on Alphonsus’s.

Man Behind Art Trailer Heist U-Hauled In


A Los Angeles man was arrested on suspicion of grand larceny (and subsequently released on $70,000 bail) for the theft of a 24-foot trailer containing artworks by Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Keith Haring, and others worth up to $250,000 (see Crimes of the Art #47). The trailer has been found stripped of its contents, but the whereabouts of the art remain unknown.

Verdict: Regardless of how this one plays out, let this be a lesson to collectors: try not to store your art in outdoor, movable storage units like trailers.

Unbearable Crime Solved!

A chainsaw-carved bear sculpture stolen in Albuquerque and recovered in Utah (screenshot by the author via FOX13)

A chainsaw-carved bear sculpture stolen in Albuquerque and recovered in Utah (screenshot by the author via FOX13)


Police returned a 300-pound, chainsaw-carved sculpture of a bear to the Albuquerque, New Mexico couple whose front porch it was stolen from in broad daylight back in February following a tip from a man in Utah. The bear was found amid a cache of stolen goods that a man was selling out of a storage locker in Davis County, Utah — some 700 miles from Albuquerque.

Verdict: Good thing the Davis County Sheriff’s Office was able to solve this grizzly crime.

Muhammad Ali Mural KO’ed


A memorial mural of the late boxing legend Muhammed Ali with a butterfly, painted on the gate to the Muhammad Ali Centre in Birmingham — which the athlete himself inaugurated in 1983 — was stolen. The Centre has been boarded up since 1998.

Verdict: Float like a butterfly, stolen like a Banksy.

London Police Have a Gripe with Groping Performance

Miro Moiré's performance "Mirror Box" (screenshot by the author via YouTube)

Miro Moiré’s performance “Mirror Box” (screenshot by the author via YouTube)


The Swiss performance artist Miro Moiré was arrested in London’s Trafalgar Square over her participatory performance art piece “Mirror Box,” for which she walked through various European cities wearing mirrored contraptions around her chest or crotch, allowing strangers to grope her breasts or vagina for 30 seconds at a time. She was held for 24 hours and fined.

Verdict: Moiré’s half-baked relational aesthetics stunt evidently had an outsize influence on the Brexit referendum — no wonder people voted to make it harder for people from the continent to come work in Britain.

Car Dealership Can’t Af-Ford to Pay for Art


A flyer for a “Ford Freedom Sales Event” at a dealership in Quincy, Massachusetts, made unauthorized use of art from Firewatch, an indie video game developed by Campo Santo. The dealership claims it found the art on the site Wide Wallpaper, which makes no claims of being copyright compliant.

Verdict: Apparently “Ford Freedom” includes freedom from copyright law — who knew?!

Anti-Police Mural Irks Police

A mural by Goin in Grenoble caused sparked calls for censorship, but will remain in place. (screenshot by the author via Twitter)

A mural by Goin in Grenoble caused sparked calls for censorship, but will remain in place. (screenshot by the author via Twitter)


A mural commissioned by the French city of Grenoble as part of a street art festival caused a stir for its depiction of the allegorical figure of Marianne (a symbol of the French republic) cowering as two police officers in riot gear approach her with their batons raised. The work, titled “The State Beating Liberty” and created by the artist Goin, will not be painted over, as demanded by local officials.

Verdict: The mural is as lacking in subtlety as the people calling for its removal are in empathy.

Texan 9/11 Memorial Trashed


A small monument to the victims of 9/11 in the Texan town of San Angelo was vandalized and a chunk of World Trade Center that was part of the sculpture was stolen.

Verdict: Truthers know who’s behind the 9/11 memorial attack: George W. Bush.

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

One reply on “Crimes of the Art”

  1. Re: the story of the Ford dealer who stole art for their ad, what the hell is wrong with ‘advertising professionals,’ or even amateurs, that they don’t know this isn’t how you obtain art for ads. There is virtually NO place online that is legitimately giving away images; they are almost all giving/selling images exposed there by infringers or that the site itself ‘scraped’ from image search engines. BTW search engines are also not ‘free stuff.’ Here’s a clue, wannabe advertising people; contact the actual artist and license use of the work. That is how it is really done. What asshats.

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